Since the start of the 2014 road season riders from the Pacific Premier Bank Cycling Team (Esprit Velo) have been hard at the task of clawing their way up the category ladder. Starting the season with just two riders in category 3, the team has collaborated brilliantly since racing began in January often sacrificing for each other to achieve results in nearly every event entered. This selfless support of one another has led to a trio of riders since advancing out of the 4’s, with another just two points away from his upgrade.
“It’s been a ton of fun watching these guys lay it all down for each other these last few months,” stated team manager Rick Thomas. “What they’ve been able to achieve in such a short time speaks volumes as to their dedication to their sport and to each other.”
It hasn’t been easy. Besides participating in nearly all of the local SoCal events the team has traveled to Phoenix, Las Vegas, Tucson, New Mexico and even Washington in pursuit of their common goals.
Sunday’s race at the Ladera Grand Prix marked the unofficial start of Chapter II for the team as for the first time in 2014 five riders from Pacific Premier Bank (John Garbo, Dakota Gracey, Nick Ramos, Rex Roberts and Chris Wyman) rolled to the line to do battle with the highly competitive category 3 field.
From the gun Pacific Premier Bank was off the front launching track specialist Nick Ramos up the road (solo) immediately forcing the other teams to chase. The move was the first of a non-stop flurry of attacks from the team that lasted throughout the first 35 minutes of the 55 minute race. With 10 laps remaining it was Team PPBI’s Dakota Gracey on the attack. A few laps later Dakota was joined by two riders, one from SDBC/Emerald Textiles and another “lone ranger”. The three quickly established an 8-10 second gap which they held onto dearly for the next 7 laps. With just 1 lap to go however it became clear the charging field would succeed in bridging when the distance between the two groups dwindled to just 3 seconds as they passed through the finish line to begin the bell lap.
As planned the free ride for the 10 laps prior proved pivotal as it was Pacific Premier’s John Garbo with a perfectly timed attack just as Dakota’s group was caught with half a lap remaining. Around the final turn John appeared to have the gap needed and indeed it was to be, the team’s first victory in the category 3’s of the season.
During the adrenaline filled post-race celebration it was Rex Roberts who received the biggest surprise. Rex, having no idea John had won the race, was just happy with the team’s execution. Smiling, joking and posing for photos Rex remained unaware of the victory until a rider from a competing team came by to congratulate John on the win. The next few words out of Rex’s mouth were priceless.
“What, you won?!”
Report & Photos by Rick Thomas, Pacific Premier Bank Cycling Team